Astrobiology (general)

The Habitability of The Universe Through 13 Billion Years of Cosmic Time

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
June 29, 2016
Filed under
The Habitability of The Universe Through 13 Billion Years of Cosmic Time

The field of astrobiology has made tremendous progress in modelling galactic-scale habitable zones which offer a stable environment for life to form and evolve in complexity.

Recently, this idea has been extended to cosmological scales by studies modelling the habitability of the local Universe in its entirety (e.g. Dayal et al. 2015; Li & Zhang 2015). However, all of these studies have solely focused on estimating the potentially detrimental effects of either Type II supernovae (SNII) or Gamma Ray Bursts (GRBs), ignoring the contributions from Type Ia supernovae (SNIa) and active galactic nuclei (AGN). In this study we follow two different approaches, based on (i) the amplitude of deleterious radiation and (ii) the total planet-hosting volume irradiated by deleterious radiation.

We simultaneously track the contributions from the key astrophysical sources (SNII, SNIa, AGN and GRBs) for the entire Universe, for both scenarios, to determine its habitability through 13.8 billion years of cosmic time. We find that SNII dominate the total radiation budget and the volume irradiated by deleterious radiation at any cosmic epoch closely followed by SNIa (that contribute half as much as SNII), with GRBs and AGN making up a negligible portion (<1%). Secondly, as a result of the total mass in stars (or the total number of planets) slowly building-up with time and the total deleterious radiation density, and volume affected, falling-off after the first 3 billion years, we find that the Universe has steadily increased in habitability through cosmic time. We find that, depending on the exact model assumptions, the Universe is 2.5 to 20 times more habitable today compared to when life first appeared on the Earth 4 billion years ago. We find that this increase in habitability will persist until the final stars die out over the next hundreds of billions of years. Pratika Dayal, Martin Ward, Charles Cockell
(Submitted on 29 Jun 2016)

Comments: Under refereeing in ApJ
Subjects: Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics (astro-ph.CO)
Cite as: arXiv:1606.09224 [astro-ph.CO] (or arXiv:1606.09224v1 [astro-ph.CO] for this version)
Submission history
From: Pratika Dayal
[v1] Wed, 29 Jun 2016 19:10:24 GMT (190kb,D)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻